Category Archives: Wildlife Protection

A Step Forward for Pollinator Protections

Pollinators in Massachusetts are now better protected from dangerous pesticides, thanks to new regulations passed this week. The state’s Pesticide Board Subcommittee has banned most pesticide products containing neonicotinoids from sale in retail stores, and restricted their use to only licensed pesticide applicators. 

Rusty patched bumble bee (photo credit: USFWS)

Neonicotinoid pesticides are harmful to pollinators like bees, butterflies, birds, and bats. When pollinator health declines, we also see ripple effects to our farms, food systems, and biodiversity. Mass Audubon and our partners have been urging increased regulations and transparency around the use of neonicotinoids – see our statement from Mass Audubon president David O’Neill on the impact of these new regulations. 

Special thanks to state Representative Carolyn Dykema, Attorney General Maura Healey, and our partners at the Massachusetts Pollinator Network for their consistent leadership on this issue, and to the many other legislators that put pressure on the state to move to action.  

Is your legislator on this list? If so, you can thank them for their advocacy using our one-step alert. Better yet, call their office to thank them – phone calls go a long way toward showing how valued their actions are! 

Massachusetts now joins Maryland, Connecticut, and Vermont as states leading on US neonicotinoid regulations. While there’s still more work to be done to reduce these pesticides’ remaining uses and educate consumers, this is an important step forward!

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup digest – January 2021

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here

Mass Audubon Weighs In

We provided input for this Huffington Post article on balancing solar expansion, agriculture, and open space protection.

Mass Audubon joined partners in urging the Biden-Harris Administration to reverse environmental rollbacks made over the last few years. This includes support for the Endangered Species Act and equitable conservation funding. And in their first few weeks, the Administration has filed a series of Executive Orders that include a directive to review the boundaries and conditions of several National Monuments, including the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts — an important first step toward restoring the site’s protections.

We also signed on opposing state Renewable Portfolio Standard revisions that weaken standards for biomass to qualify for financial incentives. Biomass energy, which relies on burning wood and other materials, should not be considered a non-emitting energy source, and can worsen air quality.

Policy News

Despite strong grassroots support, Governor Baker chose not to sign the Next-generation roadmap bill that would establish net-zero targets and ensure prioritization of Environmental Justice communities, among other goals. However, the bill was refiled at the start of the new legislative session, quickly passed again in the House and Senate, and is back on the Governor’s desk. This time, the legislature can overturn a veto or work with the Governor on amendments.

The Baker Administration released their 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap, detailing policies and strategies to combat climate change.

In other climate policy news, Massachusetts has officially signed on to the regional Transportation Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P), which aims to significantly reduce regional carbon emissions from our largest source, the transportation sector. Learn more about the TCI-P’s benefits and shortcomings.

The state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program has released new toolkits, which include several Mass Audubon resources. The Program is also encouraging cities and towns considering applying for the FY22 MVP Action Grant application round to fill out a short Expression of Interest form.

Climate Central

→ Global heating could stabilize if net zero emissions are achieved
→ A record number of billion-dollar climate disasters took place in 2020
→ A federal appeals court has struck down the Trump Administration’s Clean Power Plan replacement
→ US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord 
→ Vineyard Wind has resumed its permitting process after temporarily withdrawing their construction and operation plan from review last month

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup digest – November 2020

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here

Action You Can Take

The state has completed a technical review of pesticides containing neonicotinoids, which confirms that these chemicals are harmful to pollinators. Mass Audubon and our partners are submitting testimony urging restrictions on these pesticides, and others can too.

Mass Audubon Weighs In

Mass Audubon contributed to this WBUR piece on how solar arrays and farms could coexist if done right. Farmland and forests are being lost to solar development at increasing rates, so dual-use solar farms should be piloted and studied before scaling up. This comes at a time when the state has drafted a proposal to expand solar siting on farmland – we submitted comments noting that while we need to quickly increase solar capacity and access, safeguards are needed to avoid impacts to land and farmers.

In other solar news, this Boston Globe poll asks readers their thoughts on whether Massachusetts was right to adopt new rules that limit financial incentives for solar projects on sensitive lands. Mass Audubon provided the “Yes” perspective – take a look.

We also submitted public comments noting concerns over the City of Boston’s proposed removal of 124 trees along Melnea Cass Boulevard. Development that removes older trees and replants new, smaller trees is unsustainable, given the greater cooling and carbon-absorbing benefits of mature trees – benefits especially needed in cities.

Policy News

In better news for urban trees, the state has announced the expansion of the Greening the Gateway Cities Program. This program works with 18 Gateway Cities throughout the state to increase tree canopy cover in urban residential areas, especially Environmental Justice neighborhoods.

Massachusetts’ Department of Public Utilities has opened an investigation to assess the future of natural gas in our state, in light of the goal of achieving net zero by 2050. We supported the petition requesting this investigation, and will be following its progress.

All nine communities with the Community Preservation Act on their ballots this election voted to adopt it, bringing the total number of CPA communities to 186. CPA helps cities and towns preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and improve outdoor recreation. And after state legislation passed last year to permanently increase revenue for the CPA Trust Fund, those benefits are now being realized, with the state announcing a 28.6% match on the first round this year – up 5% from last year.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup Digest – September 2020

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here

Actions You Can Take

Help keep up the pressure to get state climate legislation passed into law this session – ask your legislators to keep pushing for progress on emission reduction targets, equitable decision-making, and natural climate solutions.

Methane is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, yet the federal government is rolling back methane pollution regulations. We can still act to collectively reduce these emissions.

Mass Audubon supports new federal legislation protecting communities and wildlife from harmful pesticides – you can help by asking your elected officials to sign on as cosponsors.

Pesticides pose a threat to grassland species like the Eastern Meadowlark. Photo credit: USFWS

Mass Audubon Weighs In

We opposed changes to the US Endangered Species Act that would narrow the definition of habitat and how it’s protected, and joined partners in opposing legislation weakening the Act.

Our Shaping the Future program is partnering with our conservation science staff and Allens Pond and Great Neck wildlife sanctuaries to enhance salt marsh resilience on the South Coast.

We provided input on the state’s Climate Resilience Design Standards and Guidelines, which will incorporate climate resilience into certain state projects.

Mass Audubon signed on as a member of the THRIVE Agenda, an economic renewal plan tackling the overlapping crises of racial injustice, climate change, unemployment, and public health.

We support responsibly developed offshore wind energy, but stronger protections are needed. We joined partners in expressing concern over failures to protect endangered marine mammals during offshore wind site surveys.

Horseshoe crab blood is used in vaccine and medication development, but this process is unsustainable for horseshoe crabs and species that depend on their eggs for food. We joined partners in calling for a synthetic alternative to be recognized for biomedical use.

Assawompset Pond, Lakeville, MA. Photo credit: Kevin Ham

Policy News

Communities have been awarded $11.1 million through the latest round of Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grants. Mass Audubon will be assisting the towns of Lakeville and Plympton with projects improving watershed management and targeted land protection.

The state has released a new report about safety and environmental challenges posed by over 25,000 road stream crossings across the state, and community needs for addressing these issues.

Climate Central

→ Assessing climate vulnerability in Mass Audubon salt marshes 
→ Looking to land for climate solutions 
→ Massachusetts fire season: not so normal
→ Climate change could be fueling an “acceleration of pandemics”
→ Views That Matter: race and opinions on climate change of Boston area residents

Help Keep the Endangered Species Act Strong

Leatherback turtles (photo credit: NOAA)

Changes to the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) have been proposed that would significantly weaken how habitat is protected under the law, but we can still help prevent them.

The changes would narrow the definition of habitat under the ESA, limiting the ability of federal agencies to conserve and restore areas important for the survival of ESA-listed species.

The proposed definition does not incorporate habitat areas in need of restoration, or account for shifts in habitat ranges expected to come with climate change, both of which are essential to the recovery of threatened and endangered species. At a time when habitat destruction and climate change are threatening so many species, we should be improving, not weakening, the way we protect them under the ESA.

You Can Help Stop These Changes

Take action today by asking your Congressperson to oppose the changes and uphold protections for our most vulnerable species.

Thank you for taking this action to protect our most vulnerable species!

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup Digest – August 2020

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here

Actions You Can Take

Feeling sweaty? You’re not the only one. Higher temperatures also mean increased air pollution – which impacts people of color and of lower socioeconomic status most – and climate change is making matters worse. Learn how you can help >

Good news – the Massachusetts House passed A 2050 Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth, a Mass Audubon priority and a win for climate action, natural lands, and frontline communities. Thank your representative!

Photo credit: Rishi Jain

Mass Audubon Weighs In

We supported a goal of No Net Loss of Nature’s Services within the state’s draft Resilient Lands Initiative Vision, since protecting, restoring and stewarding natural lands is critically important in responding to climate change.

We urged Governor Baker to support the continued expansion of responsibly developed offshore wind, encouraging him to raise the state’s offshore wind energy targets and to include racial equity, labor, and environmental protection provisions. We also submitted comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for Vineyard Wind – as the first commercial-scale offshore wind facility in the US, the 800MW project will set important precedents for the industry.

Policy News

A federal court has ruled that the legal basis for Migratory Bird Treaty Act rollbacks is inconsistent with the law. The fight isn’t over, but this is a win.

Sherborn is the latest Massachusetts community to prioritize open space protection when adding to housing supply – the Town voted to adopt a zoning bylaw making Open Space Zoning the preferred method of residential development over sprawling subdivisions. Mass Audubon provided guidance on the process.

Mass Audubon is a member of the state’s Mosquito Control Task Force, which will be posting updates on the state’s website. We’ll be continuing to advocate for statewide reform.

Great Blue Heron (photo credit: John Yurka)

Climate Central

→ Our climate team answers questions about climate change in cities
→ The importance of local climate lessons
→ Perennial vegetables – a solution in the fight against hunger and climate change 
→ Home-buying website Realtor.com will now include flood risks in online US listings
→ Federal investments in energy efficiency could help create 660,000 jobs through 2023
→ Can flour show the US economy a way forward?
→ Massachusetts is part of the largest-ever multi-state collaboration to clean up transportation pollution
→ Boston is moving forward with its Community Choice Electricity program
→ Northeast US climate initiative has a major side benefit — healthier kids

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup Digest – June 2020

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here.

Actions You Can Take

Birds in the US are in trouble due to factors like climate change and habitat loss, and now the Trump administration has taken another step toward rolling back Migratory Bird Treaty Act protections. We’re fighting these changes, and you can help >

Good news – the US Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which will permanently fund the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Next the bill heads to the House, where we’ll continue to advocate for its swift passage – you can too.

Mass Audubon supports legislation that lays out a roadmap for Massachusetts to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Learn more about its goals in this recently recorded webinar, and help it pass by taking action here.

Eastern bluebird (photo credit: Cheryl Rose)

Mass Audubon Weighs In

Mass Audubon spoke to the Cape Cod Times about a damaging proposed state mosquito control bill. That bill has now been updated, though more changes are still needed.

Mass Audubon supports state legislation that would help nonprofits cope with the financial strains of the global pandemic. The bill would provide $75 million of public investment back into these community-based organizations.

With our coalition of wildlife protection groups, Mass Audubon submitted comments on the latest phase of federal review of the Mayflower Wind Energy project. Our comments focused on ensuring site surveys are done in a way that mitigates harm to marine mammals.

Photo credit: MA Department of Public Health

Updates from the State

Massachusetts and a coalition of 30 other states, cities, and counties are suing the Trump Administration over changes to Clean Car Standards.

After a pause due to COVID-19, the state has resumed enforcement of beverage container redemption requirements – a win for recycling.

Healthy forests are critical for public health, and the state has released updates to its Forest Action Plan to ensure the health of Massachusetts trees and forests into the future. We provided input on the updates.

Massachusetts could be on the way to removing natural gas from our energy portfolio. The state will investigate the future of the industry as we transition toward renewables.

Each year, Massachusetts celebrates its Commonwealth Heroines, women making outstanding contributions to their communities. This year’s class includes Deb Cary, Mass Audubon’s Director of Central Sanctuaries.

Climate Central

→ Hurricane season is here, and NOAA predicts an above-normal year
→ Racism derails our efforts to save the planet
→ The best protections from natural disasters could come from nature itself
→ Northeast states hit snag on offshore wind – we weigh in
→ To save the climate, look to the oceans
→ A large, bipartisan majority of Americans support bolder action on climate

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 4, 2020

Help Stop Mosquito Spraying from Going Too Far

New legislation that could be damaging to Massachusetts wetlands and wildlife is on the move at the State House. Learn more about why this bill is the wrong choice for mosquito control, and how you can help.

Climate Central

→ How much food could urban green spaces produce? More than you think.
→ Response to COVID-19 has driven global carbon emissions to levels last seen 10 years ago.
→ Massachusetts announces ecological restoration program for former cranberry bogs.
→ Are we witnessing the death of the car?

A Legacy of Leadership

This week Mass Audubon president Gary Clayton is retiring after more than 30 years with our organization. We’ll miss his warmth, passion for nature, and the strong example he set as a leader. Thank you, Gary, for all your years of service!

(Roseate tern photo credit: USFWS)

Climate Action on the Cape

Mass Audubon signed on to support a Cape Cod Climate Emergency Declaration, coordinated by local groups in the region mobilizing to address the climate crisis. To date 1,300 governments around the world have declared climate emergencies, including municipalities like Amherst, Boston, and Worcester.

New MVP Funding Available

The state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program has opened its next funding round for Planning and Action grants. Mass Audubon is a certified provider for the program, which helps communities plan for climate change and improve their resilience.

Small Fish, Big Role in our Ecosystems

Good news for seabirds and other species that feed on small fish known as sand lances – a new state regulation will reduce their overfishing. Thanks to the Division of Marine Fisheries for making this change! Mass Audubon also consulted on a recent paper on sand lances’ importance for Atlantic Ocean ecosystems.

Poll of the Week

A new Yale poll finds that a majority of American voters support financial relief for renewable energy companies, rather than bailouts for oil and gas companies, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Stop Mosquito Spraying from Going Too Far

Update 7/23/2020: The revised bill has been signed into law by the Governor.

We’ll now be following its implementation closely through the state’s Mosquito Control for a 21st Century Task Force, which will include advocating for statewide reform of Massachusetts’ approach to mosquito control to improve environmental and public health practices.

Update 6/8/2020: The Joint Committee on Public Health has approved a completely redrafted version of the bill by a unanimous, bipartisan vote.

The revised bill no longer allows the Reclamation Board to override all state laws, and creates a task force to review and propose updates to the state’s mosquito control system, based on science.  It also includes notification and reporting requirements for aerial or other wide-scale pesticide applications. Mass Audubon supports these proposed revisions, and now the new bill is headed to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing for further approval.

Thanks to everyone that submitted testimony or contacted committee members – advocacy around this bill by conservation groups and others made a big difference. While this redraft marks progress, we are also still hoping to see additional changes.

Loosening regulations around mosquito spraying could have impacts on our wetlands and water supplies

Original post: A bill is moving through the state’s Joint Committee on Public Health that could be damaging to Massachusetts wetlands and wildlife, and counterproductive to public health concerns.

An Act to Mitigate Arbovirus in the Commonwealth (H.4650), proposed by Governor Baker, aims to address mosquito borne disease, but it goes much too far. The bill would exempt the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board from all state laws and allow them to conduct mosquito eradication measures anywhere in the Commonwealth.  This proposed change is based on a determination by the state Department of Public Health (DPH) that there may be a threat of mosquito borne disease somewhere in the state in the next year, but this is too vague a standard to result in such drastic measures.

The way the bill is written, there is no minimum threshold for these actions to kick in, no opportunity for input from affected communities or landowners, and no expiration date.  The Reclamation Board would be exempt from all state laws, including Massachusetts’ Open Meeting Law, Public Records Act, and environmental laws like the Endangered Species and Wetlands Protection Acts.

Mass Audubon supports the recommendations of the national Centers for Disease Control  and US Environmental Protection Agency calling for a science-based mosquito-borne disease management program, with the goal of protecting public health while minimizing environmental and human health risks associated with some types of mosquito control. Spraying of pesticides to control adult mosquitoes is the least effective, and most environmentally damaging, method.

Reform is needed for mosquito control in Massachusetts, since our existing systems are antiquated and fragmented. But this bill won’t achieve those reforms, instead giving more clout to the existing broken systems.

The proposed legislation is of particular concern at a time when many people are seeking to reduce their exposures to chemicals. More and more people are growing their own food and managing their yards and gardens with minimal or no pesticides, both to protect their own health and for the benefit of wild pollinators, which are in serious decline.  This bill would eliminate landowner’s rights to be excluded from routine pesticide spraying.

Monarch butterfly (Photo: USFWS)

Mass Audubon is opposing this bill at the State House and encouraging the Public Health Committee to reject it.

You can help by opposing the bill too.

Contact the Joint Committee on Public Health and let them know that this bill is too broad, putting wildlife and water supplies at risk, and that it lacks transparency by not providing a role for local boards of health or environmental groups.

All testimony must be submitted by email to [email protected] and [email protected] no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, May 11.

Please include “PUBLIC HEALTH TESTIMONY” in the subject line of the email, and include the name, title and organization (if applicable), address, and telephone number of the person submitting testimony.

Thank you for speaking up!

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – March 24, 2020

Take Care of Yourselves!

Although Mass Audubon’s sanctuaries are currently closed due to the stay-at-home advisory, we have citizen science projects and activities for kids you can do closer to home. Stay tuned for more ways to take action and support your community during these challenging times.

Update from the State House

As we’ve all been adjusting to our new normal over the past few weeks, activity at the State House has redirected—but it hasn’t stopped. Here’s a quick recap on what’s been happening, from COVID-19 relief to old growth forest protections.

Climate Central

→ This online policy simulator explores the impacts of different climate change solutions.

→ The state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program is holding April webinars on how to apply for funding.

Speaking Up for Environmental Protections

Mass Audubon recently joined with our conservation partners to oppose two damaging changes to federal environmental laws—loosening enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and proposed “updates” to the National Environmental Policy Act that violate the law’s intent.

Free Technical Assistance Opportunity

The Southeast New England (SNEP) Network is offering communities in that region the opportunity to apply for free technical and training assistance for stormwater management and ecological restoration. Mass Audubon is a SNEP Network partner. Learn more & apply >